Our Team

Dr. Richard Lester, Executive Director

Richard Lester is the executive director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, and a clinical professor in the Department of Management at Mays Business School.

Lester graduated with his BS from Wright State University, earned his Executive MBA from the University of Houston and received his Ph.D. in Strategic Management from Texas A&M University in 2003.

His current research interests focus on corporate governance, upper echelons, and entrepreneurship. Prior to his academic career, Lester spent 25 years working primarily at oil and gas-related firms. His last corporate position was vice president and general manager in Houston, Texas.

Blake Petty, Director

Blake Petty is the director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. Petty received his bachelor’s from Texas A&M in ’98 and his master’s in 2000. After graduating from A&M, he worked in administrative positions at the university and Texas A&M System, including a 10-year stint in the Office of Technology Commercialization.

Most recently, Petty served as assistant vice president of Research and coordinated all Innovation, Industry Relations and Business Development initiatives at Texas A&M. He also facilitated commercialization and entrepreneurship opportunities for the campus and its faculty researchers. In addition, he served as a founding partner in the launch of Startup Aggieland.

Don Lewis, Executive Professor, Director, Blackstone LaunchPad

Don Lewis has been an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Management at Mays Business School since 1999. Lewis is general partner and major shareholder in several real estate businesses. He received his BBA (Management) ’86 and MBA (IT) ’92 from Texas A&M and Texas A&M International University, respectively.

Prior to his academic career, Lewis spent several years in Europe and then in Bryan College Station working as an entrepreneur. He is the recipient of the Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence, International Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship, Newman 10 award for one of the 10 fastest-growing businesses in Bryan College Station and is involved in a number of service roles in the local community. Lewis is married and has two children, Megan and Kylan. His areas of interest include issues in entrepreneurial and small business education and international business.

Shanna Spencer, Assistant Director

Shanna Spencer is the Assistant Director for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. She joined the center in 2013 as a Program Coordinator and was promoted to Program Manager in 2015. Shanna’s responsibilities include the planning and implementation of many of the Center’s programs and events, as well as developing new programs to meet the needs of our entrepreneurial students. She has also served as a Teaching Assistant with the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Program.

Shanna graduated with her BS in Kinesiology from Texas A&M in 2003. After graduation, she worked as a marketing coordinator for Conference USA in Irving. She returned to Texas A&M ad earned her MS in Kinesiology in 2007. As a graduate student, Shanna worked for Texas A&M Sports Properties, and continued in a full time role as the promotions coordinator upon graduation.


LauraLee Hughes, Assistant Director, New Ventures

LauraLee Hughes serves as Assistant Director, New Ventures for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. Prior to joining the Center, she served as Executive Director for the Office of Technology Translation at the Texas A&M Division of Research and at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, where she led efforts related to technology commercialization and product development, including management of the university’s IP portfolio for health, life and physical sciences. Previously, LauraLee worked at the Texas A&M University System Office of Strategic Initiatives as a key technical and project manager for multiple research and development initiatives related to biodefense and medical countermeasure development. Representative projects include the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Blue Angel Program, and the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing.

She has co-authored proposals that have resulted in over $380M in State and federal funding. LauraLee is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she earned her Bachelor of Science with a double major in Biochemistry and Genetics, a Master of Biotechnology, and a Graduate Certificate in Business. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for multiple early-stage TAMHSC startup companies and is a graduate of the Leadership Texas Class of 2014.


Chuck Hinton, Director, NSF I-Corps

Chuck Hinton is responsible for promotion of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) program. I-Corps prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory, and broaden the impact of select NSF-funded basic research projects.

Hinton leads the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s efforts as part of the Southwest I-Corps Node, one of seven national partnerships of universities funded by NSF to support I-Corps expansion. Texas A&M University, along with UT-Austin, Rice University and Texas Tech University, share responsibilities for promotion of this high-impact program and recruitment of I-Corps Team applicants.

Hinton received two degrees from Texas A&M: a bachelor’s degree in business in 1976 and an MBA in 1978. After a successful career in natural gas exploration/drilling/production, Hinton more recently became familiar with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship as a volunteer mentor working with entrepreneurial students at Startup Aggieland. While leading efforts to recruit and train mentors for their student programs, Hinton developed a deep understanding and appreciation for

Startup Aggieland’s Lean Launch Methodology – which shares the same principals applied in I-Corps training.

Sophia Bishop, Program Coordinator, Blackstone LaunchPad

Sophia Bishop serves as the program coordinator for Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, a program of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, she ensure the terms of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation grant are met and that Texas A&M entrepreneurship initiatives are communicated to our Aggie stakeholders. Sophia works to organize and develop programs that will grow the entrepreneurial mindset of Aggies across campus and in the community.

Sophia earned her BBA in Business Honors and Marketing from Texas A&M in December 2016. As an undergraduate, Sophia was on the student planning team for the Blackstone LaunchPad Program, Startup Aggieland, and numerous marketing student organizations. She currently serves as an adviser for the Student Business Owners Association, a new student organization started by students from multiple McFerrin Center programs.

Stephanie Burns, Communications Coordinator

Stephanie Burns is the Communications Coordinator for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, Stephanie is responsible for marketing, social media, web design and other duties related to The McFerrin Center’s communications strategy.

Stephanie has had the pleasure of working at Texas A&M University since graduating from the University in 2014 with a BA in English Literature and a minor in French. She formerly worked as a Program Specialist for the College of Engineering’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. She currently serves as the staff advisor for Alpha Zeta Chi, a women’s organization at Texas A&M University. She also serves as a leadership coach for the Maroon and White fellows program. Stephanie is passionate about social media analytics, brand strategy and a good cup of tea.

Audrey Fadal, Program Coordinator

Audrey Fadal serves as the Program Coordinator for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, where she will assist in the planning and preparation for the many programs led by the McFerrin Center. Audrey graduated from Texas A&M University in 2017 with her BA in Communication. After graduation, she worked as Wine Club Coordinator for Messina Hof Winery & Resort in Bryan, TX, and she joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship team in April 2018.

Audrey has experience working with students and planning events after her involvement in campus organizations when in school, as well as in her role at Messina Hof. She enjoys being back on the Texas A&M campus, with plans to reach many future, current, and former students through the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

Kennedy Porter, Student Coordinator- Events


Kennedy Porter is a Senior seeking a Bachelor of Business Administration in  Management, with a focus on Entrepreneurial Leadership. She was a member of the Startup Aggieland Living Learning Community her Freshman year and has been involved in entrepreneurship programs at Texas A&M ever since. Kennedy currently serves as a coordinator for 3 Day Startup at Texas A&M, a semi-annual program that helps student entrepreneurs launch their business over the course of 72 hours. Kennedy joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship staff in January 2016 to help coordinate and execute events.

Kennedy has also served as Public Relations Officer for the Aggie Yacht Club.

Dani Beck, Student Assistant- Events

Dani Beck is a Senior from Richmond, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Sociology with minors in Business and Cybersecurity. Before joining the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship team in November 2017, she worked in the College of Architecture Dean’s Office and interned with the College Station Police Department.

Dani is also a member of the Hullabaloo Band, 12th Man Student Foundation, and Aggie Blossoms.


Marlena Brudeseth, Student Assistant- Events

Marlena Brudeseth is a Senior from Round Rock, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Agricultural Communication and Journalism. She was a intern for the startup application JERRi during the spring 2018 semeseter, and joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in July 2018.

Marlena is also a member of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority.


Madison Jones, Student Assistant- Events

Madison Jones is a Senior from Sweetwater, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Communication with a minor in Human Resources Development. She was a student employee at the 12th Man Foundation during the 2016-2017 school year, and joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in November 2017.

Madison studied abroad during the summer of 2017 as a part of the Spain Language and Culture program through Hispanic Studies. She serves as Recruitment Chair in Aggie Sweethearts, as well as the recruitment class advisor.